Powering Your Run

The Reagan Run is a great race to draw in crowds of running enthusiasts from elite distance runners to those just wanting to get in their daily exercise. No matter where you fall in this spectrum, it is important to provide your body with adequate fuel and energy in order to help you perform at your best. With all the nutrition advice at our finger tips it can be hard to decipher what is appropriate for you.

In the weeks leading up to the race, try to establish healthy eating patterns including:

1. Eat small meals and healthful snacks regularly throughout the day.

More specifically, try to eat breakfast within 1-2 hours of waking. Then, as a good rule of thumb, you should aim to eat a mini meal or healthful snack about every 2- 1/2 to 4 hours. Also, try not to skip any meals or snacks.

2. Incorporate a little bit of whole grain carbs, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fat at each meal and snack.

This combination of whole grain/complex carbs or whole fruit  along with lean protein and a small amount of heart-healthy fat helps to keep you satisfied without feeling like your depriving yourself. The more complex nutrients are also more slowly digested which fills you up longer, maintain blood sugar levels, assists in portion control, and increases energy.

3. Hydrate well

We’ve all heard that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but our actual fluid needs are more dependent on our own bodies’ weight. Therefore, it’s actually recommended that we consume half of our weight in ounces of fluid. The good news is that you don’t have to just drink water, but any liquid will do {Greek yogurt, smoothies, low fat milk, flavored water, etc… even coffee and tea}. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of juices, sports drinks, and the like because there’s a lot of empty sugar and calories that can quickly add up. If you’re a regular long distance running, training for a marathon or triathlete, or school athlete, then you may benefit                 from the electrolytes. For those trying to lose weight, lean/tone up, have blood pressure or kidney issues, then you would be best suited for plain ole water.

4. Meal plan and limit processing

We all can benefit from taking time to plan our meals and snacks and eat more whole foods. Limiting processed food like baked goods, chips, and sweets helps to minimize added sugars, calories, sodium, preservatives, etc.

On race day, here’s what I’d recommend:

Pre- race

This is the time when to throw traditional healthy eating theories out the door. It’s important to have easily digested foods in the hour or so leading up to the race. You need something that won’t weigh you down and promote cramping or nausea. Therefore, since glucose is the optimal fuel for your body, choose low fat simple carbohydrates. Good options could be:

cereal + low fat milk



toast + jam

waffle + syrup

English muffin + honey

small muffin


Be mindful to include some carbohydrates with some lean protein to aid in recovery. Make sure to replenish your sweat losses. However, the Reagan Run typically doesn’t last longer than an hour so water is typically sufficient.

Your specific calorie needs depend on a variety of factors such as age, gender, height, weight, & genetics.  The composition of those calories in terms of amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will also be depending upon your level of running along with what you typically eat throughout the day. You may need to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist to create an individualized plan that is tailored to meet your goals and needs.

Happy running!

Rebecca Fisher Miller, MPH, RDN, LDN is from Dixon currently living with her husband and new baby in New Orleans, LA. She is a practicing registered dietitian nutritionist at Elmwood Fitness Center and writes a blog called Twisted Nutrition. She can be reached at rfisher1@tulane.edu to answer any questions.